Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dollars & Sense - MLB Concessions

Happy Memorial Day to everybody!  On the most American of all the holidays, this week’s Dollars & Sense will be analyzing not only America’s pastime but the food that goes with it.  What's more American than that!  Concessions are one of the subjects on the large plate of  sports business that I find extremely interesting.  One of the biggest reasons that I like the business of sport is that it offers limitless creativity, and there is nothing that you can get more creative with than the food.

Concessions at major league ballparks are much more than your expected hotdogs, soft pretzels, popcorn, and cotton candy.  Walk around any park and you will see that teams are catching on to specialty items and local favorites.  Let’s take a look at both of these categories.

Specialty Items

The Washington Nationals created one super burger for their super pitcher called the StrasBurger.  Similar to the hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg, the StrasBurger is a behemoth.  8 pounds to be exact.  The burger itself actually sounds delicious being made with brisket, ribs, and ground chuck, and you are definitely going to have to shell out a pretty penny.  Actually you will have to shell out 5,900 pennies because the StrasBurger will cost you $59.  Levy Restaurants is the concessionaire at Nationals Park.
The Texas Rangers introduced a monstrous hot dog this year called the Boomstick.  A two foot long hot dog is not something you will be finding at every ballpark.  The $26 dog (when’s dollar dog night again?) is rumored to be meant for four people to split, but given Texas’s statewide obesity epidemic, something tells me this doesn’t always get split into four equal servings.  Sportservice is Rangers Ballpark’s concessionaire. 

Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, added a new specialty item area called Dessert Alley prior to this season.  Seemingly a play-off of Ashburn Alley, which features local Philly favorites like Tony Lukes, Dessert Alley sells huge desserts, to be blatantly obvious.  The signature item here is the $3 cupcakes, which I must say are quite impressive and a very cool idea.  Aramark is the concessionaire at the home town Citizen Bank Park.

Local Favorites
We all know that the Seattle Mariners have one of the best concessions in the major leagues.  Safeco Field boasts an impressive lineup of sushi along with other west coast Asian fusion options.  Typically, when you think of local favorites, you think of Seattle.  At least they are doing something right because they are painful to watch on the field.  Centerplate is the concessionaire for Safeco Field.
An interesting concept that the Washington Nationals use with their concessions is flavors from around the majors.  Instead of featuring foods solely from the Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia area, the Nationals have foods from all over such as the Philly Cheesesteak and more. 

Although it is not inside the ballpark and not run by the ballpark concessionaire, I do think Xfinity Live! in Philadelphia is worth noting here.  So far the bar/restaurant area has been a huge hit down in South Philly where local Philadelphia bars and hot spots are featured under one roof. 
What I Think I Think

I think that both specialty items and local favorites are great for sports venues.  With the high prices of concessions under constant scrutiny, it gives fans something a little different and doesn’t cost too much more.  Of course some of the extra-large America sized specialty items can get costly but that obviously comes with the territory. 
The oversize items give a challenge feel that has become a popular trend after shows like Man vs. Food.  People see great allure in food challenges, so sports teams are catching on and offering the option.  The local favorites are perfect, in my opinion.  They bring together food, baseball, and cities which further brands the team and the city together.  Food means a lot to cities, so why wouldn’t teams feature the food of their city? 

The Sense

Both specialty items and local favorites make perfect sense.  I love the ideas that teams come up with for their concessions and honestly I don’t think teams take advantage enough of the control they have over these things.  Why not try some kind of wild and crazy food combinations?  Somebody is bound to try it.  Plus it’s fun.  If you come up with something crazy enough, the media is bound to talk about it.  Publicity is your friend in this case.  Concessions are big business for every ball club, the second or third largest revenue generator to be exact.  Fun specialty and local items make people almost forget about the prices that they are paying.  If you cook it, they will surely eat it, no matter how crazy the combination. 

Whether you are just cooking a simple hot dog or cooking your own homemade StrasBurger, be sure to fire up the grill and enjoy your Memorial Day!

What is your favorite ballpark specialty item or local favorite?  I want to know!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this article. I can say I didnt realize that concessions make up so much of teams revenue. This is making me want to go to some of these parks to try some of this food.